The way we teach and the way our students learn is the most important aspect
of a school. It’s this unique feature we’re presenting to parents and it’s why our schools remain so popular around the world.
Our approach to education is central to our success because we’re not instructing children how
to do things or telling them the answers and pumping them full of facts (knowledge). Rather, we’re engaging them in different activities and subjects to give them a range of opportunities to learn and, by doing so, teaching them how to transfer their understanding to new fields they’ll come across in the future.
The process of moving from information input, through working and short-term memory, allows us to shift into a metacognitive learning process – it allows us to go deeper. This involves the process of retrieving memories to build new ways of thinking and understanding.
This process applies to children as well as to adult learners, including teachers at our schools.
The structure of professional learning for Nord Anglia colleagues recognises that some teachers will be well advanced in their thinking whilst others may be a bit farther behind. Every school has a broad range of capabilities, and it’s vital that they’re able to join the professional learning experience at the right level for them rather than everyone doing the same exact programme.
There are times when this may be regarded as essential (such as safeguarding training). However, the best professional development strategies include an element of teacher differentiation, which is why we personalise ours.
Using some of the courses we offer on our online learning platform, Nord Anglia University (NAU), we ensure colleagues can come up to speed from where they are now. Quite simply, the best professional development programmes give people a menu of courses and a series of routes to go through (apologies for the terrible mixed metaphors here!).
As a teacher, I wanted some say over the training I accessed as well as some guidance on how I could improve. I didn’t want instruction, but I did want a personalised learning programme to support my professional growth.
I wanted to map out my own path of inquiry into how learning could be improved for my classes rather than a prescribed, pre-determined, one-size-fits-all training programme delivered through a mountain of handouts and PowerPoint slide shows.
I wanted to be able to choose because choice is personal. Looking at their School Improvement Plan, our schools invite colleagues to select the area where they feel they can gain most through guided study. Perhaps the senior colleagues will choose a leader for each group who will do some research to find best courses and guide their group through the learning journey. It may be that those leaders are self-selected and driven to share their expertise because of their passion on a particular skill set or theme.
Regardless of the process, our colleagues then begin to engage and start using the materials, facilitating study group sessions where they can discuss what they’ve learned in a seminar and sharing how their learning can impact the school. They turn theory into practice and doing this in context becomes the natural outcome.
After colleagues have practiced new ideas, they’re often keen to share their own learning with others to encourage them to explore a similar area to impact their teaching and their students’ learning. All the school has to do is provide the framework to allow this to happen; light the spark, stand back, and watch to see the ideas fill the classrooms with awe and wonder.
In essence, creating groups of professional learning communities within the school and then letting them fly on their own is engaging and ultimately leads to great student successes in and beyond the classroom. When teachers are encouraged to talk about professional growth and learning, parents see how engaged our teachers are and how focused they are on never settling for what they can do already but constantly looking for new angles and new ways to do things better.
A relentless focus on improvement drives our schools to ever higher attainment. The quality of our teachers and, therefore, the quality of learning that the children receive, is reflected in how we harness opportunities to enable professional development and growth.
Finding opportunities to celebrate that within the community and beyond encourages more parents to want to send their children to these great schools and leads to positivity all round.
This article was written by Dr Terry Creissen OBE, Regional Managing Director for Nord Anglia Education’s China International Schools.
Dr Creissen worked in a variety of schools in the UK prior to leading international schools in China, Europe, and the Middle East. Between 1994 and 1997, he was a Board Member of the Training Development Agency for Schools and was a qualified School Inspector.
In addition to his degree and teaching qualifications from the UK, he has an MA, MBA, and a doctorate in Education. Terry was awarded the OBE by the Queen of England in June 1997 for Services to Education.
He is a keen musician, a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts (FRSA), and our resident member of Mensa. Terry is passionate about education and strongly believes that the needs of the learner should be the only priority in school improvement strategies.